The (Non) Acquisition

Drew. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Drew. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

At various points during the 2015 season, we’ve been fed up and “done” with multiple players. Didi Gregorius‘s first few weeks in pinstripes were far from smooth. Carlos Beltran looked deep fried, extra crispy, well done and every other overcooked food metaphor you can think of during the first month of the season. Then, there’s Stephen Drew, a player who has, can, and will draw ire from Yankee fans in a variety of different ways for a variety of different reasons. This outrage, however mild or vitriolic, is not unfounded. There’s no denying that Drew had a wholly awful season in 2014 no matter how you slice it and started of 2015 just as poorly.

Though he showed some pop with five homers between April and May of this year, Drew hit just .157/.225/.301/.526. He also suffered from an unfathomably low .164 BABIP in that time, though his exit velocity in the beginning of the season was below league average, hinting that hard contact wasn’t quite his thing (aside from the homers, of course). Drew’s dreadful start to the season prompted many fans–myself included–to wonder when the Yankees would cut bait with Drew and make a change at second base. The team certainly had options, with the trade market available and Rob Refsnyder hanging in the minors; he even got a call up and a brief audition during a weekend series with the Red Sox. A trade never happened and the Yankees didn’t call up Refsynder (for the long-term, that is), but the Yankees were right to hold onto Drew as the starting second baseman, even after that dismal beginning tacked onto a poor end to 2014.

It was remarkably frustrating to watch Drew during April and May, but the non-trade was defensible. Though there were trade possibilities, we have no idea what the Yankees did or what the market actually looked like. While it’s likely that Refsnyder will be better than Stephen Drew was during those first months, in the short term, a guy getting his first exposure to MLB is likely to suffer from non-ideal play. It’s a moot point since the time has passed, but it’s definitely possible that Refsnyder, in the short term, would’ve been just as bad or worse than Drew at the plate during his first extended time in the majors. That also ignores defense, which Drew is pretty good at and Refsnyder has a bad reputation with.

And even if it wasn’t really a trade or a signing or a promotion, the Yankees did get a new second baseman on June 1. From that point on, Drew has hit .246/.317/.473/.791 (compare that to the .715 league average OPS for an AL 2B). This is something I–and others–have been parroting for a while now when I see the lingering complaints about Drew’s play. Due to that awful start, everyone seems ready to jump on him whenever he has a poor at bat. Did this come out of no where? Sort of, given how terrible he was at the end of 2014 and the beginning of this year. But there were promising signs in those early struggles.

During the first two months, he did have a walk rate of 8.2% and and ISO of .144. Neither one of those numbers is outstanding, but neither is bad. He also so a solid 4.04 pitches per plate appearances, so he wasn’t giving away at bats; the results just weren’t there. Since June and his turnaround, Drew has a similar walk rate of just over 9% and an ISO of .227, much better than the first two months. The basic underlying things were there for Drew and the Yankees recognized them and held onto Drew. Now, given his second half surge, the Yankees do look pretty smart for holding onto him at second.

Had the Yankees made a change–like trading for Ben Zobrist or someone similar–I would not have been mad or even reacted in any sort of negative way. However, this does serve as a reminder that most of the time, we are not as informed as the organization is and we do not know nearly as much as we think we do. This isn’t to say that teams should be free from blame or criticism, but rather that we should remember we have no where near as much information or context as the teams do. Their reluctance to let go of Drew was not stubbornness. Their reluctance to let go of Drew was not hanging onto a sunk cost for the sake of saving face. It was a calculated decision made with knowledge of the alternatives. The organization clearly didn’t think that any internal replacements, like Refsnyder, would outperform drew and that any external replacements, like a trade or signing, wouldn’t be worth the cost. It’s likely that the Yankees saw the underlying numbers and data that pointed to a rebound for Stephen Drew and they made the choice to stay with him and it paid off.

DotF: Pulaski eliminated from postseason with Game Three loss

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Syracuse in ten innings, walk-off style) their season ends Monday … they’ve already clinched the division title

  • LF Slade Heathcott: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — got picked off first … 17-for-53 (.321) in his last 14 games
  • 2B Ali Castillo: 3-5, 1 R, 3 3B, 1 RBI, 1 CS — 9-for-22 (.409) in five games since being bumped up to Triple-A
  • DH Ben Gamel: 3-4, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — his 52 extra-base hits lead the system
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-5, 1 R, 2 K
  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • RHP Brady Lail: 3 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 45 of 82 pitches were strikes (55%) … finishes the season with a 2.91 ERA and 88/40 K/BB in 148.1 innings, third most in the system behind LHP Conner Kendrick (150.1) and RHP Jaron Long (149.2)
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 2 IP, zeroes, 5 K — 21 of 33 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K — 16 of 28 pitches were strikes (57%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — ten of 18 pitches were strikes (56%)

[Read more…]

Yankee bats come up short in 3-2 loss to Rays

Blah. That was a frustrating game. The Yankees lost Saturday’s matinee 3-2 to the Rays. The pitching wasn’t great, but it was good enough. The offense? It was both bad and somewhat unlucky.


No Command Nate
Nathan Eovaldi‘s first set of back-to-back rough starts in three months have come at an inopportune time. The Yankees were able to beat up on the Braves when Eovaldi struggled last weekend, but Saturday against the Rays was a different story. He couldn’t locate — Eovaldi threw a first pitch strike to the first ten batters, then to only seven of the next 15 batters — his fastball and the splitter was breaking more left-to-right than down. Not good.

Here’s a strike zone plot of Eovaldi’s pitches. All those purple dots representing splitters are in a bad location. They’re supposed to be down around the knees and even below the zone, not way up in the zone or way outside:

Nathan Eovaldi pitch location

The Rays scored their first run on a seeing eye ground ball single that was preceded by a Logan Forsythe double down the line and an Asdrubal Cabrera walk. Kevin Kiermaier was able to yank a grounder just far enough away from Brendan Ryan at second to score the run. The two runs in the third were messier. Eovaldi loaded the bases with one out without allowing a ball in play: Daniel Nava walked, Evan Longoria took a pitch to the forearm, then Grady Sizemore walked.

Eovaldi won a seven-pitch battle against Forsythe to get the called strike three for the second out, but Asdrubal Cabrera jumped on a hanging first pitch breaking ball and drove it to right field for a two-run single. Carlos Beltran bobbled the ball but I don’t think it mattered. Both runs were probably scoring anyway with two outs. After allowing three runs only four times in his previous 12 starts, Eovaldi has now allowed five runs and three runs in his last two starts.

All told, Eovaldi struck out seven and allowed those three runs on five hits and a season-high four walks in 5.1 innings. He also hit a batter, so ten of the 25 batters he faced reached base. Definitely could have been worse. Three runs in 5.1 innings isn’t a disaster but it also isn’t what we’ve come to expect from Eovaldi recently. He’s been really good the last few months. Bad command turned him back into April Eovaldi these last two starts. The Yankees need him to straighten it out soon.


Chip, Chip Away
The comeback attempt started in the fifth inning, after Matt Moore limited the Yankees to two base-runners in the first four innings. John Ryan Murphy worked a leadoff walk and scored all the way from first on Didi Gregorius‘ double to left-center. How many catchers score from first on a double? Not many. Didi ambushed the first pitch and drove it over the outfielders’ heads. He continues to be awesome.

The Yankees were able to score Gregorius with two ground balls — Ryan moved him to third and Brett Gardner got him in (Cabrera made a great play to get Gardner, it was almost an infield single) — to trim the deficit to 3-2 in the fifth. Chris Young followed Gardner’s grounder with a ten-pitch walk after falling behind in the count 0-2. That was a heck of an at-bat. He fouled off some tough pitches and earned that free pass.

And just like that, Moore’s afternoon was over at 78 pitches. The Rays are taking it easy on him as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery and they didn’t want to push him any further. Moore cruised the first four innings, then the bottom of the lineup helped get him out of the game in the fifth. Very nice work. Forcing the Rays to get 13 outs from a bullpen thinned by trade (Kevin Jepsen) and injury (Jake McGee) was the Yankees’ best chance at a win.


Five Rockets, No Runs
The eighth inning might go down as the most frustrating inning of the season. The Yankees were still down 3-2, and Alex Rodriguez started the frame with a rocket ground ball back up the middle … and right to the shifted infielder for the first out. Beltran, the next batter, ripped a line drive down the line … right at James Loney for the second out. It looked like Loney was standing on the foul line.

Chase Headley followed with a rocket of his own, and thankfully that one did not find a glove. It dropped into center field for a single. Greg Bird followed that with a line drive to left field. That one wasn’t caught either. Another single to put runners at the corners with two outs. The first four batters of the inning all crushed the ball against Alex Colome. Pinch-hitter Brian McCann drew a walk to load the bases with two outs. Then Gregorius hit a rocket … right at the second baseman to end the inning. Brutal.

The Yankees did everything right that inning. They hit hittable pitches and tattooed everything. All five balls in play were scorched — the average exit velocity in the inning was 101.2 mph! — and they had nothing to show for it. Yuck. Bad BABIP luck? Maybe, but I don’t think you can call it bad luck when the defenders were positioned perfectly for all three outs. Ugh. What an annoying inning. Five hard hit balls and a walk. No runs. I hate baseball.

Platoon bat. (Presswire)
Platoon bat. (Presswire)

The bullpen was in bend but don’t break mode, but 3.2 scoreless innings is 3.2 scoreless innings. Joe Girardi used five relievers to get those eleven outs. One of ’em was James Pazos, who made his MLB debut. He faced two batters, getting a 400-foot fly out and a strikeout. Andrew Bailey made his second appearance of the season, walking a batter before snagging a comebacker. Yankees pitchers walked seven batters.

The Yankees had four hits Friday night and only five Saturday afternoon. Headley had two singles, Beltran and Bird had singles, and Gregorius had his double. They did draw five walks though: two by Murphy and one each by Young, A-Rod, and McCann. Murphy was also hit by a pitch. He reached base three times and has a .371 OBP since Independence Day. That’ll play.

Ryan, who has no business being in the lineup during a postseason race, went 0-for-2 and is 4-for-37 (.054) dating back to August 1st. At least he was replaced by pinch-hitter Jose Pirela against a lefty in the seventh. Better late than never, I guess. Also, that’s twice Pirela has been used ahead of Rob Refsnyder in pinch-hitting situations since rosters expanded. I don’t think it was the wrong move either time.

And finally, the Yankees are now 21-22 in one-run games this season. That was not the plan! They were hoping to dominate one-run games thanks to their ridiculous end-game bullpen. The Yankees are also 6-6 in their last dozen home games, nine of which have been played against mediocre teams.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game, and here are the updated standings and postseason odds for the season. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot remains 23 for the time being. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Rays wrap up this three-game series Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Ivan Nova and Chris Archer is the pitching matchup. Make sure you head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or any of the other seven remaining games on the homestand in person.

Game 134: Nasty Nate and the Rays

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees have won six times in their last seven games and have gained one whole game in the standings. Stupid juggernaut Blue Jays. Nothing the Yankees can do about that though. They just have to win their games and everything will take care of itself.

Nasty Nate Eovaldi is on the mound this afternoon looking to rebound for a bumpy start against the lowly Braves last time out. He has a 3.32 ERA (2.84 FIP) with fewer hits allowed (73) than innings pitched (78.2) in 13 starts since the disaster in Miami. Pretty awesome. Keep it going, Nate. Here is Tampa Bay’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Great weather in New York today. Nice and sunny, no clouds, temperatures in the upper-70s/low-80s. Pretty great. This afternoon’s game will begin 1:05pm ET and you can watch on FOX Sports 1. No YES, WPIX, or FOX. Just FOX Sports 1. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (stomach) is still a bit dehydrated and remains day-to-day with flu-like symptoms. He may be available to pinch-hit today … CC Sabathia (knee) feels fine after yesterday’s simulated game and the plan remains for him to come off the DL to start Wednesday.

Saturday Links: Waiver Trades, Eppler, 2016 Draft, YES

D-Rob. (Presswire)
D-Rob. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Rays continue their Labor Day weekend series a little later this afternoon. Here are some morning links to help you pass the time.

Yankees were blocked in attempts to add pitching

During the waiver trade period in August, the Yankees were “blocked in every attempt” to add pitching, reports Nick Cafardo. Well, that should say “almost every attempt,” because they did claim David Robertson, only to have the White Sox pull him back. Getting blocked on trade waivers simply means a team with a lower waiver priority (i.e. a worse record) placed a claim on a player. In August, players can only be dealt to the team that claims them off trade waivers. They can be dealt to any team if they go unclaimed.

The Yankees were in first place for 18 of 31 days in August, so I’m guessing the Blue Jays did most of the blocking. Wildcard hopefuls like the Twins, Rangers, Angels, Rays, and Orioles were probably in on the act as well. The only pitchers traded in August were Fernando Rodney, Neal Cotts, Randy Wolf, Oliver Perez, and Eric O’Flaherty. Cotts and Perez are useful left-on-left matchup guys, but otherwise the Yankees don’t have much use for those players. Any attempt to add significant pitching was likely blocked. Aside from Robertson, of course.

Eppler continues to be linked to Angels

Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler continues to be linked to the Angels, who will hire a new GM in the offseason following Jerry Dipoto’s midseason resignation. Dipoto lost a power struggle when owner Arte Moreno sided with manager Mike Scioscia. Bob Nightengale heard from one “high-ranking Angels executive” that Eppler is considered the front-runner for the job while Alden Gonzalez notes Eppler’s name comes up “frequently” in Angels discussions Ken Rosenthal reports the Angels have not yet asked the Yankees for permission to speak to Eppler, for what it’s worth. Eppler interviewed for the Angels job back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner-up to Dipoto. There are a few GM jobs open right now (Angels, Mariners, Red Sox) and I’m guessing this won’t be the last time we hear Eppler connected to one of them.

2016 draft set for June 9th

The 2016 amateur draft has been scheduled for June 9th, reports John Manuel. That’s a Thursday. The draft has historically been held on the first Tuesday of June, but in recent years the start date has moved around due to MLB Network. The draft started on a Monday in both 2012 and 2015, and on a Thursday in 2013 and 2014. As usual, it will be a three-day event next summer.

Manuel says there has been talk of moving the draft broadcast to Omaha to coincide with the College World Series, which would allow some more prospects to attend, but that won’t happen next year. The College World Series usually doesn’t start until mid-June, which would mean delaying the draft two weeks or so. Not ideal. Teams want to get their players, get them signed, and get their careers started.

YES ratings up 31% in the second half

Apparently the thrill of a postseason race has more people watching the Yankees down the stretch. YES Network ratings are up a whopping 31% in the second half, the network announced. Ratings are up even more in certain demographics, and YES is “delivering the best demo viewership” since 2012, whatever that means. Also, nine of the eleven highest rated game broadcasts have come within the last month. If you win, people will watch. If you lose, many will still watch.

Severino, homers lead Yankees to 5-2 win over Rays

Source: FanGraphs

Solid start to the homestand, I’d say. The Yankees used the tried and true formula of quality pitching and multiple home runs to beat the Rays in Friday night’s series opener. The final score was 5-2. It’s Friday night — Friday night before a holiday weekend at that — so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Four Hits, Five Runs: The Yankees had four hits in the game and three left the yard. Brian McCann was involved in all three homers too. He walked to set up Alex Rodriguez‘s two-run shot in second, hit a solo homer in the fourth, then walked to set up Greg Bird‘s two-run shot in the seventh. McCann is now 11-for-17 (.647) with three doubles, three homers, two walks, and one strikeout against Jake Odorizzi. I’m guessing he sees him well.
  • Lights Out Luis: For the first time in his big league career, Luis Severino threw a pitch in the seventh inning. He started out a little shaky — four of the first eight men he faced reached base — but settled down and held Tampa to one run on seven hits and a walk in 6.1 innings. He struck out five. The run came on an Evan Longoria solo homer. Severino only threw 91 pitches and seemed to have plenty left in the tank, but Joe Girardi opted for a fresh reliever in the seventh before things spiraled out of control. Severino has a 2.04 ERA in six starts. What a lift he’s been.
  • The Final Outs: Justin Wilson got two fly outs to end any threat of a rally in the seventh, preserving Severino’s win. Adam Warren struck out two in a perfect eighth, allowed a run on a single and a double in the ninth, then Andrew Miller came in to record the final two outs on four pitches. He struck out one. Miller has saved 30 games in 31 chances. Stress-free win, I’d say. Especially after Bird’s homer stretched the lead to 5-1.
  • Leftovers: The one non-homer hit? That was a Brett Gardner infield single. McCann drew the only walks. Six base-runners all game, that’s it. Five came around to score. Dingers are great. Long live dingers … the 4-5-6 hitters went 3-for-7 (.429) with two walks (.556 OBP). The rest of the lineup went 1-for-21 (.048) … Jacoby Ellsbury left the game in the fifth inning with an upset stomach, the Yankees announced. After the game they said he’s day-to-day with flu-like symptoms.

Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is 23. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Rays continue this three-game series with the middle game Saturday afternoon. Nathan Eovaldi and Matt Moore will be the pitching matchup. Head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or any of the other eight games on the homestand live.